It’s 4:30 in the afternoon and 100 degrees. We live in the South; so the humidity crushed against us when we arrived at the pool for my son’s first swim meet. I was a swim team newbie. There were throngs of newbie parents milling around and a handful more who actually knew what was going on.
“Have you checked in?”
“Have you marked your son’s arm?”
“No…um…I…um…I didn’t want to do it wrong.”
The fact is, the e-mail we received made the stakes seem too high for me to take a sharpie and complete the necessary table of numbers and letters on his arm. I was worried one wrong number or letter would land my seven-year-old swimming a 200 meter IM instead of his 25-meter freestyle. So I left it for somebody who knew what they were doing.
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We were checked in and hustled to the team table on the other side of the pool. Kids and parents alike were calmly chatting, playing games, or heading to the playground.
My son easily settled with some friends. The bullpen mom found her heat sheet and marked his arm with the event, heat, lane, and stroke information. It was such a zoo, many kids had their names written on their backs in Sharpie. I guess in case the bullpen mom gets so frazzled she forgets who you are and tries to send you out for the wrong event…
See? The worry is real.
As I settled, I realized swim meets look more like a SEC tailgate party. Parents were moving in coolers, chairs, side tables, even portable rocking chairs (more about that later).
Silently, I screamed at myself “WHY am I doing this????”
Swim Team Newbie Blunders
I talked to a veteran mom who said the meet started at 6:00…..whoa….6:00??? I’m here at 4:30. What the what? Oh. We wait for everyone to swim one practice lap. It apparently takes that long.
Oh. We wait for everyone to swim one practice lap. It apparently takes that long.
I was assured that the younger kids race first so they can go home at a reasonable hour. Then I learned they go first AFTER the relays. So not so much FIRST exactly. Event 36 exactly.
We finished by 7:30 and now I knew. I planned to be better prepared next time. And I was.
Then, for the third meet, it was raining. A thunderstorm warning in effect. Then the email came. Wait in your car until 4:45; there was thunder and nobody can be on the pool deck.
Let’s review. It’s raining. And thundering. And I’m waiting for a swim meet to start? It could start and then thunder and we would be called out of the pool (and maybe sent back to our cars?) for 30 minutes. I’m told those meets can last until past 11:00.
But by now, I knew why I was doing all of this.
So I’ve put together the tips and tricks I’ve learned as the newbie swim team mom in the hopes that I can spare you some of my blunders:
Swim Team May Cost More than You Expect
Right off the bat, swim team enrollment can cost more than you expected.
Swim team will also take up time. Here’s the way it works.
Go get your calendar. Go. Seriously. Now. I’ll wait.
Rip out the months of May and June completely and throw them away; you won’t be able to do anything else.
Kick Up Your Feet & Stay A While
You’ll want to keep a good bug spray on hand, just in case. The EWG has released its reviews on bug repellents in the age of newly identified concerns. When I don’t make my own, I keep this one on hand just in case. And I’ve also kept these bug repellent wipes on hand from time to time, often in my car. But you definitely want to read the review to be up on the latest safety concerns!
There’s nothing worse than icky, sticky hands. For me, hand wipes are a must!
I bring a few games for the kids to play with to keep themselves entertained between races. Each child usually has something, and they all play together. Kids love this game, and you’ll love that the cards are waterproof!
You’ll want a hat to keep the sun off your face (wrinkles, you know!) I’m not a hat lover by nature, but I love this one because I can still wear my hair in a ponytail.
Don’t forget your sunglasses and sunscreen. That sun reflecting off the pool can be brutal!
Bring in your own snacks and dinner, definitely. One of these makes it super easy. I always pack for my boys and they eat what I bring. And then they go to the concession stand for whatever junk is on the menu.
You’ll definitely want to bring a good supply of water. You’d be surprised that, even though the kids are in the pool, they can get dehydrated. And you’ll be sitting out in the sun.
Surprisingly, swimmers are at increased risk of dehydration. Adequate fluid is needed insideyour body to function as a coolant. Consume fluids before, during and after exercise to ensure success in the pool.
Type A Moms: LIGHTEN UP!
A swim team newbie will want to hover. Don’t.
You’ll want to keep them away from the blue food, candy, and general crap at the concession stand. Let it go for tonight.
You’ll want to pressure them to perform like Michael Phelps. Encourage them to care about having fun and showing good sportsmanship instead.
You might want to jump around, scream until you lose your voice, and dance a victory dance like a crazy person once your child gets his twenty-eight seconds in the water.
STOP! First decide whether or not this will embarrass your child. Then do whatever you want to! You’ve waited for this moment. You deserve it. I’m pretty sure they secretly love the mom on the side of the pool going nuts!
Then do whatever you want to! You’ve waited for this moment. You deserve it. I’m pretty sure they secretly love theat mom on the side of the pool is going nuts!
Swim Team Will Be Both More Horrible and More Awesome Than You Imagined
Once you’ve prepared yourself for this brand new world, prepare to be alternately bored and exhilarated!
Our coach, like so many others, is downright inspirational. Coaches love what they get to spend their summers doing and it shows! Perseverance, kindness, and commitment – these are the values you and your child will be steeped in as you spend two months of your life wanting to pull your hair out.
So if you’re a swim team newbie, you may be wondering why these moms dedicate hours upon hours of time. If you’re a swim team newbie, you might wonder why you should endure and carry on.
It’s simple, really.
My son was terrified of swimming in a meet. Before the first meet, after he swam a couple of practice laps, Coach Catherine simply said, “So, what do you want to swim at the meet buddy? I know you LOVE freestyle and you’re swimming really well. You want to swim backstroke too?”
At that moment, the beams of his gorgeous smile exploded from his face.
Today, only joy and pride fill his consciousness as he swims his heart out at every meet. Those few seconds that he swims make it all worthwhile.